It’s not easy to find out that one of your children, a parent or a sibling has been diagnosed with a serious mental disorder. It can happen to anyone. Mental disorders can affect anyone, anytime. It doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, black or white, male or female – it affects everyone.
Having a mental disorder means a person has a medical condition that affects thought processes or perception of reality. They would also have personality and behavioral changes and may hallucinate or have delusions.
Some disorders can be treated, most disorders can be managed.
This is nothing to be ashamed of. We have to let go of what other people think. We have to forget the stigma that comes with it.
However, a lot of feelings will come out – denial, anger, sadness and many more. Here are some ways to deal with the situation.
The first thing to do is to accept that he or she has a mental disorder.
It can be an addiction (to drugs, computer games or shopping), a major depressive disorder, a phobia, a psychosis, an eating disorder, a personality disorder, a developmental or behavioral disorder or even dementia. We can’t change the condition. It’s already there.
Learn everything you can about the illness. Know how you can help improve the situation of your loved one, including treatments.
Educate other members of the family. Explain the situation to them. Help them understand.
If you are a parent, remember that you have other children. Also remember that even if there is an illness, this loved one is still the same person.
Take care of yourself. Handling a mental health patient can be tiring.
Give yourself a break. Relax.
Be a mental health advocate. De-stigmatize other people. Inform them that mental health is important and is for everyone. It is a medical condition, therefore, it is not something to be ashamed of.
Consult with the psychiatrist. Be sure to bring your loved one to the psychiatrist for follow-up. They are the only ones who can tell you when to stop taking the medicines.
Get support from other people. If there is a support group for that particular disorder, join the club. You can also become a member of the Philippine Mental Health Association (PMHA). It feels good to know that you are not alone.
On another note, it’s Eating Disorders Awareness Week. People with this disorder need our acceptance, understanding and empathy. The sickness is real. This is a serious mental disorder.
I wrote about this last year. Here is a reminder of the three types of eating disorders:
Anorexia nervosa – a person restricts food and exercises excessively due to a distorted body image
Bulimia nervosa – a person binges, then uses self-induced vomiting or laxatives to purge afterwards
Binge eating – recurring episodes of binge eating without purging
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